Thursday, July 30, 2009

Premature kids and a clueless mama

It's been an exciting morning here at Antiquity Oaks. Jonathan came inside around 9:30 and said that Scarlet was in labor. I was happy for a split second until I realized she wasn't due until August 10. Although she was pen bred, I saw her get bred and marked the calendar for August 10 as her due date. And it's not like the buck sneaked up on her and just got lucky once. She was definitely in heat and was bred multiple times. Of course, there is the occasional goat that has false heats, and goats that have weird cycles, but the only thing I could think about this morning was how we have never had a kid survive that was born any earlier than about 140 days. These kids would be around 136 days.

Jonathan grabbed three towels to take out to Katherine, who was with Scarlet, and I quickly followed. Katherine looked unhappy. She sighed and said, "She pushes, the nose comes out, and then as soon as she stops pushing, the nose goes back in. She's not making any progress, and she's been doing this for 10 minutes."

"Great," I said sarcastically. I stood outside the stall and watched. A minute later, she had a contraction. As Katherine said, Scarlet pushed a little, the nose came out, and as soon as she stopped pushing, the nose disappeared again. The thing that really struck me was that she made no noise and didn't seem as if she was trying very hard. I don't like to intervene in animal's births, and I especially don't like to intervene when they seem so happy. But I couldn't deny that she was making zero progress. I watched a couple more contractions and thought about what to do.

You can't pull a kid out by its nose -- too slippery. I'd heard of people pulling by the lower jaw but didn't want to risk dislocating the kid's jaw if other options were available. I figured I should be able to find the front feet, grab them and pull the kid out, so I went to get the gloves, iodine, lube, kid puller, and other kidding supplies that are so rarely used around here. I hoped that when I returned, Katherine would be drying off a kid.

When I returned with the kidding box, Katherine was sitting on one end of the stall, and Scarlet was walking around as if she were having a lovely day at the park. I would never know that she was in labor if I only looked at her from the front. But there was no denying that she was past the point of no return. The kid had to be born. Scarlet's water had broken, and a nose kept presenting itself.

A textbook presentation for a kid is the nose lying on top of the two front hooves. The hooves come out first, then a nose, then a head, and voila, a kid! I knew the feet were not where they should be, but I didn't think they were very far back. Wrong! Finding the feet was impossible, because the nose was slipping back inside Scarlet about two inches, which meant its shoulders were several inches inside, and the feet and legs were even farther away -- and my fingers are not that long.

By this time, Mike had arrived and I said that I might need to use the extra-long gloves because I was going to have to have my entire hand inside her to be able to find the front legs. I decided to try to find the front legs one more time with my fingers during her next contraction. Well, she finally decided to push like a real mama goat. (Maybe she understood what I said?) She gave one good push, and the kid practically plopped onto the towel!

I started cleaning off its nose, amazed that it was alive. It was so tiny. I didn't even notice that Scarlet was still pushing and a second kid was emerging. Katherine alerted me to this obvious event that was occurring only inches from my hands. I caught the second kid (pictured) and was trying to clean the noses off both kids. I grabbed a clean towel and put it in front of Scarlet's face and quickly placed both kids in front of her, assuming she would help me clean them up.

Nothing. Scarlet did nothing. She looked at me. She looked at the kids as if they were a pair of sneakers. No sniffing. No licking. No little noises welcoming the kids. Nothing. After a minute, she stood up and walked to the other side of the stall.

"What?" I shrieked, wide-eyed, in disbelief. Scarlet laid down. We finished toweling off the kids and trying to resist calling Scarlet a bad name. We sat in the straw chatting and admiring the kids for 15 minutes, and Scarlet never moved from her spot on the other side of the stall. It was obvious she wanted nothing to do with her kids.

I'm assuming her lack of maternal instincts are because the kids were early, and she doesn't have the requisite hormones helping her to bond with them. Her udder is also ridiculously tiny and looks like a goat who might give birth in a week or two. Katherine couldn't even get enough colostrum to cover the bottom of the milk bucket. (See photo.) The second time she tried, she got about a teaspoon, so maybe it's a good thing Scarlet isn't in love with her babies.

What's the rest of the story? Well, I think the kid's small size is what caused Scarlet to not push very hard. It's the smallest kid we've ever had born here. If her big sister had been first in line, it might have actually been easier for Scarlet. As for her giving birth so early, I'm wondering if her place at the bottom of the pecking order is to blame. We've all felt sorry for Scarlet as it seems she is the whipping boy of the herd. Katherine has been feeding her separately for a while because she realized the other goats wouldn't let her have her grain. And when Katherine first saw the nose sticking out of Scarlet's back end, there was another goat slamming into her belly.

We brought the kids into the house, and they are staying in a laundry basket for now. They can hardly stand, so there's no danger in them getting out of there. Kids are normally bouncing around after 20 minutes or an hour at the latest, so these little girls are facing some challenges. We had some colostrum in the freezer, which we're using. They are eating well, and the bigger one has stood up several times, but has yet to take her first steps. The bigger one also has figured out the bottle and eagerly grabs it when she sees it, so she's doing very well considering she could have benefited from another week inside her mama.


Nancy K. said...

Oh MY! They are so tiny and precious. Good luck with rearing them ~ I wish I was close by and could help!

MARY LOU said...


Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Amazing! Considering how premie they are they look good and strong! So glad you had colostrum on hand; will Scarlet's milk eventually come it? For milking, if not for her babies? It does sound like trauma (being butted) could have caused premature labor; poor girl.

Claire said...

Oh Deb! They are so beautiful, but so tiny! I just want to hug them. Love the stripe on the one's back. I hope they will make it but I know they will face challenges. Wishing the best to them and you.

Angela Rountree said...

I had a non-premie kid survive who was ~ 8 oz at birth, so I will guess your does weigh 8oz and 14 oz, and wish you the best of luck with both of them.

Sharon -- The OKI Stampqueen said...

Too cute-thoughts and prayers for their survival and thriving! I would guess...8.5 oz. and 15 oz. Blessings, Sharon


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